Simon Parker column
Early birds arriving at the Bramall Lane away end were greeted by a sight guaranteed to warm every Bradford City heart.
Short of sounding a battle horn and lining up a thousand horses on the horizon, watching Andrew Davies going through his paces was as close a signal as you’ll get that the cavalry is on the way.
For half an hour Davies and fitness guru Nick Allamby pounded the Sheffield turf to remind everyone of a claret and amber persuasion that their defensive talisman was coming back. And not before time...
Ninety minutes later and two stretchers were being carried off that same pitch. One bearing medical equipment – the other a distraught Kyel Reid.
The joy of seeing one of the club’s biggest figures gathering steam on the comeback trail replaced by another waving goodbye to the season – and maybe the club.
It was another reminder of the fragile life of a footballer.
Like so many of the most serious injuries, the fateful incident was much ado about nothing.
Yes, he was caught from behind by home defender Tony McMahon but it was not a hatchet challenge. Reid has had plenty of the x-rated variety and lived to tell the tale.
Unfortunately, in trying to turn and ride the foul, his studs got stuck in the ground and his knee twisted, snapping the anterior ligament in the cruciate.
It’s a devastating blow for the team, who rely so heavily on Reid’s electric pace and ability to attract a posse of markers from the opposition’s ranks.
But what about the player himself? From playing week in, week out and carrying so much of City’s attacking threat, in one fell swoop he is reduced to the role of long-term patient.
And patience will be the key as he contemplates an absence that could stretch to eight months. That’s well into next season.
By that point, the one-year option that City eagerly took up on Reid’s contract will have expired. What will happen then?
His medical bills and recuperation will be funded by the club for the remaining five months he is on the Valley Parade pay roll. But then comes the dilemma.
In normal circumstances, offering Reid a further contract would be a no-brainer. Like all wingers, he may infuriate at times, but ask any club in the lower leagues and they would earmark him as the man to watch – and fear – when playing the Bantams.
It’s safe to assume that having secured James Hanson early on and then unsuccessfully trying to keep Nahki Wells, Reid’s name would have been high up on that priority list of players to keep.
That can’t possibly be the case now. No football club will put a deal in front of a player facing up to such a long spell in casualty.
It sounds harsh but that is simply throwing good money after bad.
Everyone – and not just the City hierarchy – will watch how Reid comes through his recovery. Put simply, will a player whose blistering pace with the ball at his feet is his trademark be able to hit that same velocity once fully recovered?
Cruciate injuries are no longer the career-enders of the recent past – just ask Matthew Bates, who has come back from five knee operations – but will it be the same lightning-quick Reid as before?
Omar Daley’s top speed had dipped when he recovered from the injury that derailed Stuart McCall’s promotion bid five years ago. Will next season’s Kyel Reid offer the same slight of foot as the current model?
Calls to offer Reid another deal regardless are well intentioned. In an ideal world, that would be the next step to provide a timely boost at his lowest ebb.
But in the cold business world of football, that won’t happen. He will have to prove his fitness first to any future employer, whether that is in West Yorkshire or somewhere nearer his London roots.
So we could well have seen the last of Reid in a City jersey; the last image of a player who has brought so much joy to the club’s followers being that of a distressed figure covering his face as he is carried away to generous applause from all four sides of Sheffield United’s ground.
An example of why footballers have to make the most of every moment, because you don’t know what is around the corner.